Brilliant – you’ve got coverage in a mainstream national title. But oh dear, the CEO’s name is spelled wrong. And cringe, that isn’t quite the message your business or client wanted to get across. What can you do to request a correction for an article?
1. Check if it’s fact or style
The art of good PR and comms is striking the balance between the message a company or brand wants to get across and the journalist’s idea of what makes a story. Bear this in mind before contacting a journalist or publication to request changes to an article.
You CAN ask for factual errors to be corrected. For example, an incorrect name or date or a spelling error.
You CAN’T ask for stylistic changes. For example, say a journalist has written a trends-led feature about the growing popularity of meditation. Say your company or client allows employees ‘meditation breaks’. The journalist gets a quick quote from your head of HR to say how successful your ‘meditation rooms’ have been on staff productivity. Great publicity for you. The journalist gets your company name in, but fails to mention what products you actually make. To a press officer, this might be a publicity fail. To the journalist, this is trivial information. In this case it wouldn’t be appropriate for you to request any changes.
2. Future-proof your relationships
It’s essential that you maintain positive relationships with journalists and publications, so think what you want to achieve before you call out an error. If it’s a print-only magazine for example, there is no point asking for a correction as it’s already too late. But you could thank them for great coverage, point out the error and ask if there is any way they can weave in a mention of your company or client in the near future to compensate.
If it’s an online publication, then requesting a correction would be the best outcome. You could ask for an additional tweet of the updated version too.
3. Contact the journalist first
It’s common politeness to approach the person you’ve had contact with first, rather than going above them. It’s quite likely the journalist will be reluctant to tell the editor there is a mistake. But if they work in-house they may be able to change it themselves. If they are freelance they may have a colleague who can do it for them. If they don’t respond, then you can contact the editor at the publication or website.
Be aware that often the journalist who wrote the piece has nothing to do with the online team who load the words onto the site. This is almost always the case if the journalist is freelance, because they probably won’t have access to the publication’s CMS system.
Mistakes are human and time-pressed journalists are under lots of deadline pressures so most importantly be polite when asking for an article correction.
4. Don’t forget your rights
Finally, if the mistake is a whopper (i.e. you believe it is defamatory or a breach of privacy) you can make official complaints to the press regulator IPSO. Details on how to make complaints can be found here.
Do you want to know more about how journalists work? Check out our Ultimate PR Training Day and Ultimate PR Broadcast Briefing. The courses are designed for PR and comms professionals covering things like pitching to journalists, building contacts and identifying story angles.
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